Seasonal immune support in a mouth-tingling shot!

Citrus fruits are in season; coming into the UK just when we need them most and bringing with them a blast of vitamin C and the suggestion of sunnier climes. Just the very smell of the fruits can lift our mood, and studies suggest that citrus essential oils may help those suffering from depression and anxiety. Select your citrus fruit of choice and sniff! 

I am currently making the most of our wonderful seasonal blood oranges, and this simple, spicy shot uses the whole orange (zest, pith and all) to benefit from all that the fruit has to offer. Warming and anti-inflammatory; a delicious way to lift our mood and support our immunity naturally.

Citrus Sunshine Super-Shot

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 large carrot scrubbed and chopped
  • Juice of 3 blood oranges (unwaxed or scrubbed well)
  • Strip of zest and pith from one of the oranges 
  • 1cm piece of ginger root (adapt to taste)
  • 1cm piece of turmeric (adapt to taste)
  • Drizzle of olive or rapeseed oil (to aid absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, like curcumin and beta carotene)
  • Crack of black pepper (to add absorption of curcumin from the turmeric)

Method

Put all the ingredients through a juicer and enjoy immediately. Sip mindfully and feel the sunshine!

Spiced Dandelion Mocha

Despite absolutely loving the flavour of coffee, I have very poor tolerance of caffeine and can’t drink it without inducing a disabilitating headache. Dandelion root however provides a lot of the flavours that I love in coffee, but none of the caffeine, and has provided a tasty and satisfying alternative.

The bitter flavours of dandelion have long been used to support liver health, but the health benefits don’t stop there. Dandelion root is also a good source of the soluble fibre inulin, which is prebiotic and provides a tasty snack for your beneficial gut bacteria. The polyphenols found in cocoa, cinnamon and cloves will also provide food for these important bacteria, making this delicious mocha, fabulous for digestive health, as well as a comforting, warming treat on a chilly morning.

We talk a lot about the health benefits of dandelion (root, leaf and flower) on our foraging walks, but I am yet still to harvest my own dandelion roots and produce my own dandelion coffee. Does anyone else make their own from scratch?

Spiced Dandelion Mocha

Makes 1 hug-in-a-mug

Ingredients

  • 250ml (1 cup) almond milk
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) strong dandelion coffee*
  • 1tbs smooth almond nut butter
  • 2 level tsp cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • (plus a pinch of cardamom, ginger or chilli powder?)

Method            

Warm the almond milk and dandelion coffee in a saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of almond nut butter, 2 level teaspoons of cocoa powder, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch of cloves (or whatever spices you fancy).

Remove from the heat just before it reaches boiling point, then whisk to disperse the almond butter (I find a stick blender is perfect for the job and provides a lovely froth on the top of the mocha.)

Pour into your favourite mug and enjoy the comforting and warming effect of the spices.

*I brew my coffee in a cafetiere using Cotswold roasted dandelion coffee and make enough to last me a few days, however you can also buy pure dandelion root powder from WholeFoods. If you use the powder, then just add 1 tsp into your almond milk along with ¼ cup of water.

Sweet and Spicy Nut and Seed Mix

Delicious little mouthfuls packed full of protein, minerals and warming spices. Low carb and vegan – another great Christmas gift idea (if you can bear to give them away!). 

Sweet & Spicy Nut & Seed Mix

Ingredients

  • 150g hazelnuts, unsalted
  • 140g almonds, raw and unsalted
  • 65g pumpkin seeds, raw and unsalted
  • 70g sunflower seeds, raw and unsalted
  • 35g Brazil nuts, raw and unsalted
  • 50g cup raw amaranth
  • 85g maple syrup
  • 1 heaped tbs black strap molasses
  • 1 tbs organic coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt (to your taste)
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon

Method

Preheat the oven to 180˚C / 350˚F / gas mark 4.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the maple syrup and all the spices and seasonings.

Combine the nuts and seeds in a separate mixing bowl.

Pour the liquid mixture over the nuts and seeds and stir until thoroughly coated.

Spread the nut mixture evenly out over a baking tray and pop it in the oven (I have found that using a silicon baking sheet useful here but do avoid using baking paper to line the tray, as it can be difficult to remove the baked nuts and seeds afterwards – learn from my mistake!).

Cook for about 20 minutes but do check every 5 minutes or so and stir to prevent them from burning (this can happen very quickly, especially around the edges).

When ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray (this is when it will start to become crisp!)

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Thanks to https://nutritionstripped.com for the original recipe – much used and loved!

Salted Gingerbread Cookies

These have to be my favourite seasonal cookies – packed full of spice and perfect to enjoy alongside a warming cuppa after a bracing winter walk. They take minutes to make (and cook) and would make a fabulous Christmas present. Thanks to Megan Olson (www.allrecipes.com) for the original recipe which has been much shared and enjoyed.

Salted Gingerbread Cookies

Makes 12-16

Ingredients

  • 240g ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp sea salt + more for salting
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or Sweet Freedom

Method

Set the oven to 180˚C / 350˚F / gas 4.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the ground almonds, coconut sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder (NB: since biting into a homemade muffin and finding a lump of bicarbonate of soda, I always sieve this ingredient into a recipe now!).

In a separate small bowl, add the molasses, melted coconut oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup.

Combine liquids with a fork to blend lightly, then add to the flour mixture and fold together until thoroughly blended.

With a small ice cream scoop, place tablespoons of mixture onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the top is cracked and is just firm to the touch (avoid over-baking as these can then taste bitter).

Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle a bit of salt on each cookie (flaked sea salt looks rather pretty).

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for another 2-3 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Horseradish, Apple and Beetroot Relish

This is one of my favourite relishes (taken from Jennifer McGruther’s fabulous The Nourished Kitchen) and one that is very familiar to my husband who is of Jewish heritage. Horseradish, or Chrain, is a member of the brassica family and, alongside its more popular counterparts cabbage, kale and broccoli, is a particularly rich source of glucosinolates. These chemicals have been widely studied and found to be protective against cancer and help to safely process sex hormones through the liver.

Horseradish is considered a bitter herb and so is also used to help stimulate the production of bile, which not only helps to support good digestion and the elimination of waste from the body, but also good sex hormone regulation.

Anyone who has ever grated fresh horseradish will be aware of its pungency! It has been traditionally used to treat bronchitis and sinusitis by opening up airways, expelling mucus and exerting an antibiotic effect (it certainly cleared my sinuses!).

This recipe partners horseradish with apple and, my absolute favourite ‘dessert island’ vegetable, beetroot, which not only sweetens the bitter notes but also adds to the nutritional potency.

We have come across a lot of wild horseradish on our Wild Food Adventures, but it is illegal to dig up the roots of any plant in the wild (even one as invasive as horseradish), however my fabulous friend Sandra happily provided the horseradish used in this recipe from her allotment where, she said, it was behaving like a complete brute!

I did discover however that the leaves can also be used in pickling and may not only impart some mustard flavour but may also help to keep pickled cucumbers crunchy. A recipe to try in the new year …

Horseradish, Apple & Beetroot Relish

Fills about 3 x 500ml kilner jars

Ingredients
  • 450g apples, peeled and cored
  • 550g beetroot, peeled
  • 225g horseradish, peeled
  • 1tbs fine sea salt (plus more if needed)

Method

Grate the beetroot, apples and horseradish (I do this in a food processor). This sounds a simple instruction, but the smell from the horseradish is enough to strip paint, so ensure you do this in a very well-ventilated room and have tissues on stand-by!

Transfer into a large mixing bowl and add stir in the salt. Massage the mixture for about 3 minutes to help to start to break up the fibers of the fruits and vegetables (you may find wearing a pair of food gloves very useful here!).

Transfer the mixture into sterile preserving jars, pounding down as you go, using a wooden spoon or the end of a rolling pin to release the juices and create a natural ‘brine’.

The brine should completely cover the vegetables. If it doesn’t, make up some additional brine by dissolving 1tsp sea salt in 250ml of water and pour in enough to ensure that the vegetables are submerged.

Seal the jars and place in a warm spot in the kitchen to ferment, then retire to a cool room to bathe your stinging eyes … (horseradish is a brute in the kitchen as much as in the earth!).

Check on the jar daily to ensure that the vegetables are still submerged and top up with more brine if required.

Taste the relish after 10 days to check the flavour. If you prefer a more sour flavour, then leave for a further 5-7 days. When you are happy with the flavour, transfer to the fridge, where it can be stored for 6 months or longer.

Grape Jelly

These amazing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes came courtesy of some lovely neighbours who have had a bumper harvest this year. These grapes were small, sweet and seedless and were delicious to eat as they were, but I wanted to try and preserve some of the grape goodness a bit longer, so I made some grape jelly.

Pectin levels were quite low, so the result is really more of a thick syrup (adding extra pectin would have helped here), but still a lovely consistency to stir into warm porridge or to add depth to autumn stews. Rather than sugar, I used Sweet Freedom in this recipe in an attempt to make something sweet, but with a lower GI.

The amazing colour comes the polyphenol resveratrol (mainly found in the skins of the fruit) which acts as an antioxidant and has potent anti-inflammatory action in the body. It is also a phytoestrogen and as such may help to modulate sex hormone levels. 

Grape Jelly

Ingredients

  • 1 kg red grapes (made 1 litre of fruit puree)
  • 750ml Sweet Freedom
  • Juice of 2 lemons 

Method

Wash the grapes and remove any stalks.

Put the grapes into a large saucepan and add just enough water to almost cover them.

Bring to simmering point, then cook gently for about 30 minutes, or until the grapes are soft. You can mash the grapes using a potato masher to help release the juices, but I found a stick blender more effective.

Strain the grape mixture through a sieve to remove any skins or seeds (all of the flavour and nutrients will now be in the liquid). 

Measure the liquid and, for every litre, add 750ml of Sweet Freedom.

Return the mixture to a clean saucepan and gently heat, stirring to dissolve the syrup into the juice. Add the juice of 2 lemons, then increase the heat and allow it to boil for about 8 minutes before turning off the heat and testing.

To test, simply pour a teaspoon of the liquid onto a cold saucer (I chill mine in the freezer beforehand). Return the saucer to the fridge for a minute or so, then test for set by pushing your finger into the liquid. If it wrinkles and a skin forms, it has reached setting point. If not, return to the heat and boil for another 3-4 minutes, before testing again. Keep repeating the process until it is ready.

I cooked mine for about 30 minutes before giving up and accepting that I will probably only have a thick syrup, but at least it would not have all boiled away to nothing!

Remove any scum that has formed on the surface, then pour the jelly (or syrup) into warm sterilized jars and seal.

Apple Crumble for Breakfast

So perhaps this is more of a deconstructed apple crumble, but the flavours are all still there and I really do like the idea of eating a pudding for breakfast.

I don’t really have a recipe for the apples – I generally make it up as I go along, so I have done my best to remember the ingredients I last used, but please do adapt this to your own taste.

I serve my breakfast crumble with some live yoghurt and a blob of chia jam (currently this is plum – see separate blog for the recipe).

Packed full of soluble fibre, polyphenols and friendly bacteria; this is heaven for gut health and a gentle way to help keep you regular!

Stewed Apples

Serves 2

Ingredients                                                                                          

  • 2 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced into fat slices
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1cm length of ginger root, grated
  • 1cm length of turmeric root, grated
  • 1tbsp xylitol (or sweetener of choice)
Method 

Put the sliced apples and lemon juice into a saucepan, along with all the spices, and add a little water.

Heat the apples gently to simmering point and cook until the apples are just soft and not too mushy (not that it really matters). Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and allow it to cool and the flavours to infuse.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature. 

Crumble Topping

Makes about 8 servings

Ingredients                                                                                          

  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g oats
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
  • 2 ½ tablespoons maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of sea salt
Method 

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / gas 6.

Put the oats, ground almonds, flaked almonds, cinnamon and a good pinch of sea salt into a bowl.

Pour the coconut oil and maple syrup into a small saucepan and heat until the oil has melted.

Add the oil and syrup to the oat mixture and mix well to ensure the oats and nuts are all coated (this is easiest done with your hands).

Spread the mixture out onto a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown, turning every 4 minutes or so to help prevent burning,

Allow to cool in the tray, then transfer to an air-tight container, and keep in a cool dark place.

If you’re thinking that my stewed apples look a little fluorescent, that will be the turmeric effect – pure colour therapy!

Autumn Salad

A seasonal salad of roasted butternut squash and beetroot served with tender kale leaves (not cooked, but simply rubbed with olive oil and a little sea salt) scattered with the roasted seeds of the butternut squash and decorated with flowers from my beautiful garlic chives. Simple, but very satisfying and all homegrown (every meal should have flowers on it!).

Usually I add shelled pumpkin seeds to my salads, however for this recipe I have toasted the whole squash seed (including the case). These seeds do need a bit more prep (and a bit more chewing), however they also contain more zinc than shelled pumpkin seeds. Most of the zinc is found in the papery ‘endosperm’ envelope which lies between the seed and the shell and therefore is usually lost during shelling. It is also very satisfying using the whole butternut squash – seeds and all!

Roasted Squash Seeds

Scrape the seeds from inside the squash and give them a good wash in cold water, removing any pumpkin flesh or stringy bits.

If you plan ahead, it is a good idea to soak the seeds in water for a few hours or overnight, as this will help soften the seeds and aid digestibility, however this stage is optional.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C / 356˚F / gas mark 4.

Put the seeds into a saucepan of boiling water to cook for 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

Next, transfer the seeds onto a baking sheet and drizzle with some olive oil.

Season the seeds with a little sea salt and whatever spices or herbs take your fancy (I particularly like a combination of cumin, smoked paprika and garlic salt) and toss them around to ensure they are all coated.

Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then give them a stir before baking for another 5 minutes or until they are golden and smell nutty.

Allow them to cool, then transfer into an air-tight container until required.

Theses tasty seeds make a great snack on their own or can be added to a breakfast granola (probably not with the garlic salt flavouring!) or used as a topping for a seasonal salad.

Purple Plums

Flavoursome plums are not always easy to find; their rich colour so often hides a disappointingly insipid taste. In previous years I have been lucky enough to forage wild damsons but this year I was either beaten to it, or the trees had a poor harvest but, either way, I had to resort to supermarket plums. My purchased plums however were surprisingly tasty and were blended together with some chia seeds to make a delicious plum ‘jam’. 

Plums, and chia seeds, are an excellent source of soluble fibre which can help support a healthy digestive tract, plus plums also contain chlorogenic acid, which is a natural laxative. So, all in all, a very delicious way to keep regular!

I couldn’t resist a blob of ‘jam’ on a piece of crusty bread, but my favourite way to eat it is with stewed apples, yoghurt and granola for a tasty autumnal breakfast.

Plum Chia Jam

Makes about 600ml

Ingredients                                                                                        

  • 1 ½ punnets of plums (approx. 8 large plums) 
  • A little water
  • 4 tbs chia seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 slices of ginger root
  • 1tbs Sweet Freedom (or sweetener of choice)
Method 

Wash the plums, then cut them in half and remove the stone, before chopping them into quarters.

Put the plums into a saucepan with a little water and add a cinnamon stick and 2 slices of ginger root. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the plums are soft.

Remove the cinnamon stick and ginger slices, then whizz the fruit with a stick blender to make a puree. 

Taste the puree and sweeten if necessary (I added 1 tbs of Sweet Freedom to 600ml of fruit puree).

When you are happy with the flavour, add the chia seeds and mix well.

Set aside for at least 20 minutes (or ideally overnight in the fridge) to allow the chia seeds to absorb the juice and thicken the ‘jam’. 

Delicious on pancakes, or drizzled over stewed apple, porridge, plain yoghurt, or whizzed into smoothies … or just enjoyed on a slice of crusty bread!

Rosehips and Leather

Now is a perfect time to start gathering your rosehips which are abundant in the gardens and hedgerows. All rosehips are edible, although one of the best is the humble Dog Rose which you may find rambling around common land.

Tradition has it that rosehips are best picked after the first frost (a bit like sloes) as the freezing process makes the fruit more juicy and flavoursome, however home freezing has the same beneficial results and means less waiting! (24 hours in the freezer will do it).

Packed full of vitamin C and polyphenols, these fruits were invaluable during World War II, and children were paid 3d per lb to collect rosehips to be made into a syrup which would help keep the nation healthy throughout the winters.

Not all of the fruit is good to eat however, and the seeds inside contain cyanogenic glycocides (as do the seeds of many other fruits however, including apples) but are best avoided in any quantity. They also contain tiny hairs which are an irritant to the skin, gut and respiratory system (and are, in fact, used to make itching powder!) and thus are also best avoided.

The recipe below is a delicious way to enjoy these seasonal treats, with all the potentially problematic bits removed.

Rosehip Fruit Leathers

Makes enough for 2 trays of fruit leathers

  • Ingredients
  • 500g rosehips
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 3 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and grated
  • 5 tbs honey or Sweet Freedom (add to taste)

Method

Put the rosehips into a food processer and whizz until broken into pieces.

Transfer the rosehips into a saucepan with 1.5 litres of water and bring to the boil.

Turn off the heat and allow the rosehips to steep in the hot water for 30 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a scalded jelly bag, or through a double thickness of muslin cloth lining a sieve. Let the pulp sit for at least 30 minutes for the juice to drain through.*

*The rosehips contain tiny hairs which are an irritant. To be sure you have removed all the hairs, some recipes suggest that you pass all the strained liquid through a clean jelly bag or another double-layer of muslin cloth for a second time just to be sure you catch them all.

Pour the strained liquid into a clean saucepan and add the grated apples.

Bring back up to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the apple is soft and becomes a puree (I then whizzed this with a hand-blender to make it super-smooth). 

At this point, taste your puree and add any sweetener (I used 5 tablespoons of Sweet Freedom).

Line two baking trays (approx 20cm x 40cm) with a base layer of baking paper (which also covers the sides) and place a silicon baking mat in the bottom of each. You can just use baking paper, but my last fruit leather stuck tight to it and wouldn’t shift, so this time I invested in a silicon baking mat (fabulous – highly recommended!).

Pour half the fruit puree into each tin. My mixture was quite runny, but if your mixture is thick, you may need to use a palate knife or a spatula to spread it out evenly.

Pop the trays into an oven preheated to 70°C / 160°F for about 12 hours (I left mine overnight) or 140°C / 290°F for about 4-5 hours. If you leave the oven door slightly open, it will help the drying process.

You will know when your fruit leather is ready because it will no longer feel wet and sticky, but ‘tacky’ and will lift off of the tray in one piece. Generally, the middle will be thicker than the sides, so make sure you check both.

When ready, peel the leather off the baking tray and allow it to cool. Snip into shapes or strips (great for fruit roll-ups) and store in a sterilised jar or wrapped in greaseproof paper in an air-tight container.

These should keep for about 1 month (if they haven’t already been eaten!).